THE race for the 2009 PGA Legends Tour Order of Merit honours has come down to the wire, with the winner to be decided at the season’s final event, the Fiducian Legends Australian PGA Seniors Championship next month.
To be held at the Byron Bay Golf Club from December 18-20, the PGA of Australia’s flagship senior’s event once again boasts a stellar field headlined by defending champion Noel Ratcliffe and the evergreen Peter Senior who created history earlier this week when he became the first Australian to take honours at the US Champions Tour Qualifying School, thus earning a tour card for 2010.
Ratcliffe, who claimed the Championship in 2001 & 2008 is one of five players in the $80,000 field who could take out the Order of Merit honours in 2009.
Garry Merrick leads money list
South Australian Garry Merrick currently leads the Money List with $29,242 but with a $14,500 first prize purse on offer Queenslander’s Rodger Davis ($21,781.99), Allan Cooper ($19,387.47), Mike Ferguson ($17,051.46) and New South Welshman Ratcliffe ($16,680) are all within reach to take the Order of Merit crown come December 20.
Ratcliffe claimed the Legends Australian PGA Seniors Championship title last year by an impressive six shots after finishing on four under par ahead of a group of four players including Stuart Reese and former winners David Merriman (2007), John Clifford (2003) and Terry Gale (1997).
The 64 year old Sydneysider continued his good form into 2009 taking out the Tahiti Legends Pro-Am in March before heading to the European Seniors Tour where he has established himself for the past 12 season with eight titles to his name.
He finished 42nd on the European Seniors Tour Money List in 2009 after playing nine events and finishing strongly with a T10 at the Casa Serena Open in September.
Ratcliffe returned home to play in October and has since picked up five top ten finishes in ten events on the Legends Tour including victory at the Araluen Golf Resorts Legends Pro-am and a tie for first place at the Rosnay Legends Pro-Am in Sydney earlier this month.
“My form has been fairly solid this year and the pleasing aspect is that it is much the same as it was heading into last year’s event,” said Ratcliffe.
“I am driving the ball well which is what you need to do at Byron Bay Golf Club – you need to be long and straight off the tee or you can get yourself into trouble. My putting has been on the up the last few weeks as well and with the generally small slopey greens at Byron, it’s important to get the ball under the hole and control it or it can be very difficult. I remember it well as last year David Merriman and I were the only players to shoot under par in the final round.”
Peter Senior a threat
Ratcliffe will face some stiff competition from his fellow contenders, none the least from one of Australia’s most well loved players Peter Senior. The popular Queenslander who has plied his trade around the world for the past 20 years claiming 18 tournaments in Australia, three events in Japan and four more titles on the European Tour has revelled on the Senior Tour’s in 2009 and comes into the event hot on the heels of his three stroke victory in the US.
Since turning 50 in July, Senior played three events on the European Senior Tour with three top four results, including twice runner-up placing’s and finished 14th on the final Order of Merit. He is third on the all time PGA Tour of Australasia Career Money List and will play in next week’s Australian Open followed by the Australian PGA Championship presented by Coca-Cola before he finishes his season in Byron Bay.
“I am really looking forward to playing the event this year as it will be my first Legends Australian PGA Seniors Championship and my first time playing at the Byron Bay Golf Club,” said Senior. “I’ve been playing really well on the Senior’s circuit so it would be great to finish the year off on a high note.”
Rodger Davis, David Merriman, Mike Ferguson, Graham Bannister among the contenders
Other chances include former British PGA Champion Rodger Davis, former Australian PGA Seniors Championship winners David Merriman (2007) and Mike Ferguson 2002 & 2004) and New South Welshman Graham Bannister who most recently finished tied for third place at the European Seniors Qualifying School Final to secure playing privileges on the 2010 European Seniors Tour.
The 2009 Fiducian Legends Australian PGA Seniors Championship to be staged over 54-holes (no cut) will carry prizemoney totalling $80,000.